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Retailers Heading Into ‘Super Saturday’ With Some Stamina

by David Moin with contributions from Sharon Edelson, Kari Hamanaka, Evan Clark

A full weekend of shopping before Christmas next Monday will help retailers meet holiday sales goals.

With just a few days left until Christmas, retailers are keeping their cool.

They’ve got “Super Saturday,” the last Saturday before Christmas and typically the biggest or second biggest shopping day of the year, coming up.

They believe many shoppers will still be scrambling for gifts all week, and the discounting has been no worse than previous years while inventories are in better shape.

And though some snow and rain is predicted for around Christmas Eve, it won’t be too bad and the weather has generally been seasonal most of the shopping period.

The relatively strong sentiment around holiday shopping has helped buoy retail stocks after a very tough year when many investors stayed away from the sector while others bet shares of brick-and-mortar businesses would continue to fall.

But in the four weeks since Thanksgiving, shares of both Macy’s Inc. and L Brands Inc. are up more than 20 percent and Kohl’s Corp., Gap Inc., Dillard’s Inc. and Lululemon Athletica Inc. are all up by more than 15 percent. A spot check by WWD of 11 traditional retail names showed only one decliner since the Thanksgiving turkey was carved: J.C. Penney Co. Inc., which fell 6.5 percent to $3.03.

“We know the vast majority of our customers are still shopping,” said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer at Wal-Mart U.S., on Tuesday. “There is no more important time to deliver on our promise than the final days before Christmas. We started the season by promising more — more assortment, more savings, more convenience and more fun.” tripled the number of items available for the holidays, according to Scott Hilton, chief revenue officer of Wal-Mart U.S. e-commerce. And based on data collected earlier in the season, Wal-Mart believes that 85 percent of Americans are still shopping for holiday gifts.

“It’s not saying much, but it’s been a whole heck a lot better than last year,” said James von Maur, president of the Davenport, Iowa-based Von Maur department store chain. “E-commerce has been super strong. We had a strong November [overall] and with this shift in the calendar giving us a full weekend before Christmas, we are feeling pretty good about December. We are on track for some good sales. Discounting hasn’t been out of control so that’s healthy for the industry. We’re not chasing the bottom. The weather is cooperating. That cold snap in October really got things got juiced.”

He cited Kendra Scott jewelry, Tory Burch jewelry and shoes, North Face puffer coats, Kiehl’s cosmetics, and ath-leisure and cosmetics generally as strong performers.

According to Randal J. Konik, equity analyst at Jefferies LLC, “The mall checks this weekend pointed to ongoing solid traffic, aided by cool weather and promotions that, on average, are slightly higher than last year, but in some cases below. In the teen space, we noted strong traffic at American Eagles Outfitters, which was slightly more promotional at 40 to 60 percent off store-wide versus 40 percent off last year, as well as Hollister, while Abercrombie & Fitch remained quieter.

“Gap and Old Navy were also busy with roughly flattish promotions,” Konick wrote in his report. “Conversely, Kors continues to reduce promos, and was offering only an extra 25 percent off sale merchandise, versus last year’s “spend more, save more” for up to 30 percent off the entire purchase. The improvement at Urban Outfitters’ Anthropologie division in apparel is also evident through the reduction in promos; this weekend the store offered 25 percent off the entire purchase, versus 30 percent off clothes, shoes and accessories last year, and 20 percent off home and beauty.”

At Los Angeles-based Wildfox Couture, “So far, this season didn’t bring in as much as were anticipating. With Christmas being right around the corner, our last-minute shoppers are coming out and we are seeing bigger ticket purchases with little hesitation — our favorite kind of customers,” said cofounder and ceo Jimmy Sommers.

Wildfox Couture, which has an online store and three brick-and-mortar locations in California and Texas, has seen interest in its holiday collection, knit sweaters and ready-to-wear, equal interest in full-priced versus discounted products, and that customers get hot cocoa and rosé to put them in a good mood for shopping. “We are looking forward to a busy next few days in all stores,” Sommers said. “Day after day our sales continue to increase as Christmas quickly approaches.”

Rob Trauber, ceo of Los Angeles boho chic retailer Johnny Was, said comparables for the company’s 28 doors are strong and that business next weekend should be up from last year given the holiday’s fall on Monday. The full-price business, he added, has been tracking slightly up from a year ago.

Cotton On Group’s U.S. business is in line with expectations, reported U.S. country manager Mark Pan. Knitwear, deconstructed and embellished denim, robes, fleece-lined active tights and loungewear are top sellers. “Given Christmas falls on a Monday, we expect to see an extra push in-stores with last-minute shoppers,” Pan said. “Since Black Friday, we’ve been able to provide newness without relying as heavily on promotional activity, which our customer is responding to.” The company has 140 units in the U.S.

Tradesy, the Santa Monica-based designer resale web site, saw business up 6 percent in November, and sales during December through last Monday afternoon were tracking nearly 15 percent ahead of plan. Founder and ceo Tracy DiNunzio said business will likely settle down to about 10 percent ahead, with the normal slowdown of online ordering that as Christmas nears due to deadlines for getting deliveries to arrive before the holiday, and last-minute shoppers relying more on shopping the stores.

“We’ve spent a lot of our time and efforts this year focusing on retaining our customers as opposed to acquiring new ones,” DiNunzio said, explaining what’s helping drive business. “We created a lot of new products this year that give our existing customers a reason to come back more often.…We’re just seeing more and more people do their holiday shopping online and newer platforms like ours as an option for gifting.”

Faster shipping, faster site speed, and a larger selection of items available for personalization have helped, the ceo said. Gucci is over-indexing on the platform this year, just as it did around the same time last year. Hermès and vintage Chanel accessories have also been strong sellers, along with accessories generally.

The weather has been favorable for holiday shopping and will for the most part, continue to be leading up to Christmas. “December has been very good, and that little bit of snow we had was ideal. It wasn’t hugely traffic-limiting but was enough to get people in the winter apparel mind-set,” said Evan Gold, executive vice president of global services at Planalytics, which helps retailers plan for the impact of weather.

“The East is going to remain relatively mild almost right up to Christmas. Super Saturday gets cold in the center of the country, very cold in the western two-thirds of the country, but a lot of the East will be somewhat mild. Snow won’t hit the East Coast until right around Christmas Day. We may get some rain on Saturday, but if you need to get to the malls you will be able to.”

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